Reading through the Bible together

Sunday, May 20, 2012

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"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior."  (Titus 3:3-6, NIV)


Imagine someone snapping a photograph of you when you look your worst- perhaps when you first get up in the morning, or just after an injury has left your face bloodied and bruised, or worse yet, just as you deliver a cruel and contemptuous sneer at some unfortunate family member.  Today’s story takes such a picture of Jacob’s family.  It is indeed the portrait of troubled family greatly needing God’s healing grace.  There are no heroes in this story.


Dinah is attracted to heathen women of the area- and not to mingle with them as the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13) but more as Lot’s wife who loved Sodom and became a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:26).  Shechem is rash, demanding, and violates the woman to whom he is attracted much as Samson would do years later (Gen. 34:4 cf. Judges 14:2).  Much like David, who was crippled by his past sins, and unable to defend his daughter Tamar after her tragic rape (II Sam. 13), Jacob is silent and passive (v. 5) and later does little more than anxiously chide his murderous sons (v. 30).  Hamar, like Laban, uses marriage agreements as a means to greedy ends (vs. 21-23).  Jacob’s sons perpetuate the family tradition of trickery and deceit in their response to Hamar and Shechem (vs. 13-17).  In addition, much like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, they pervert the emblems of God’s covenant (circumcision in this instance) to suit their own self-serving ways. Simeon and Levi, like Judas, use the kiss of friendship to cover betrayal and murder.  There are not heroes in this story.  Sadly, God does not even appear in this story- presumably because His presence is unwanted and uninvited.  


The revenge that Simeon and Levi seek is so true to human nature yet so foreign to the absence of revenge they had experienced at the hands of their Uncle Esau, or would experience at the hands of their brother Joseph years later.  It is so foreign to the attitude of God, who “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:10, NIV).


This story without heroes is indeed a dark portrait.  It makes the reader anticipate the refreshing life of Joseph who will break the chain of Israel’s generational sins.  It makes the reader long for Jesus (prefigured by Joseph) who would break the chains of generational sins for all humanity.  


Douglas Tilstra

Director of Outdoor Leadership and Education

Southern Adventist University